On May 30, 1445, Margaret of Anjou was crowned at Westminster Abbey by John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury. Margaret had turned fifteen just two months before.
Henry VI and Margaret had married on April 22, 1445, at Titchfield Abbey. Since then, Margaret had been making a leisurely journey toward London, during which she was entertained by various lords. On Friday, May 28, 1445, she finally arrived at Blackheath, where she was greeted by the mayor of London, the aldermen, and various commons in “costeous array.” Behind Margaret in her splendidly decorated chariot rode chariot after chariot of ladies. Their names are unrecorded, but it’s likely that anyone of rank who was present in England had come to London for the festivities. Margaret’s destination that Friday, in accordance with custom, was the Tower of London, where Henry VI received her.
On her way to the Tower, Margaret was honored with two pageants: one at the Southwark approach to London Bridge, the second upon the bridge itself. Because Margaret’s marriage had been made in exchange for a truce with France, the pageants emphasized–rather ironically in hindsight–Margaret’s role as peacemaker. The figures of Peace and Plenty were on hand to greet Margaret for the first pageant (where she was also enjoined, equally ironically, to be fruitful and multiply). The second pageant compared Margaret to Noah’s dove of peace. Six more pageants were in store for Margaret, many of them also emphasizing Margaret’s role as peacemaker. Helen Maurer suggests that Margaret saw these additional six pageants on May 29, the day she journeyed from the Tower to Westminster, rather than on May 28.
Margaret rode to Westminster on Saturday, May 29, in a litter draped in white cloth of gold and drawn by two horses likewise decked in white. (Gregory’s Chronicle describes the horses’ coverings as satin; the Brut has the horses wearing damask powdered with gold.) Margaret herself, according to the Brut, was clad in white damask powdered with gold. Her hair was combed down around her shoulders; upon her head she wore a gold crown with rich pearls and precious stones. (Unlike the chronicler who recorded Elizabeth of York’s coronation, who noted for the benefit of future novelists that Elizabeth had “faire yelow Hair,” no one was helpful enough to record the color of Margaret’s.) The city conduits ran with wine, both white and red, for the people to enjoy.
The next day, Sunday, May 30, was Margaret’s big day. Unfortunately, a detailed description of her coronation ceremony does not exist, although the one we have for Elizabeth Woodville twenty years later gives us a reasonable idea of what would have taken place. Margaret, followed by a bevy of duchesses and other noblewomen, was probably led by bishops and by the Abbot of Westminster into Westminster Abbey, where she knelt before the altar and then prostrated herself. After that, she would have been anointed and crowned. Most likely Henry VI was not present during the coronation, as Edward IV is not mentioned as being at Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, and Henry VII, while able to watch his queen being crowned, was concealed from the sight of the public.
Later in 1445, William de la Pole, then the Marquis of Suffolk, was granted the manor of Kettlebaston in return for carrying a sceptre of ivory, with a golden dove on its head, at the queen’s coronation, so he had presumably performed this office for Margaret. His son, John de la Pole, apparently performed this task for Elizabeth Woodville.
Following Margaret’s coronation, a great feast was held, followed by three days of jousting. Who jousted is unrecorded, but Richard Woodville, married to Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, was a noted jouster of his day and might have well participated in the 1445 festivities.
Henry VI, who could ill afford the expense of Margaret’s coronation, nonetheless made certain that his young bride was appropriately decked out in jewels. Before the wedding, he had ordered that “the Queene most necessaryly have for the Solempnitee of hir Coronation . . . a Pusan of Golde, called Ilkyngton Coler, Garnished with iv Rubees, iv greet Sapphurs, xxxii greet Perles, and liii other Perles. And also a Pectoral of Golde Garnished with Rubees, Perles, and Diamonds, and also with a greet Owche Garnished with Diamondes, Rubees, and Perles, sometyme bought of a Marchant of Couleyn for the Price of Two Thousand Marc.” A pusan was an ornamental collar, according to Sherman M. Kuhn’s Middle English Dictionary. According to Harold Clifford Smith in Jewellery, a pectoral was a species of brooch, as was an owche, otherwise known as an ouch or a nouch. At what point in the ceremonies Margaret got to wear these fine jewels is unrecorded.
Margaret’s coronation was attended by five minstrels of her father, Rene of Anjou (identified by his illustory title of “King of Sicily”) and by two minstrels of the Duke of Milan, who were there to witness the ceremony and report back to their respective employers. In 1444, Henry VI had given a safe-conduct for eighteen Scotsmen to come to see the coronation, “provided, always, that they conduct themselves well and honestly towards the King and his People.” As there is no record of Margaret’s coronation being disrupted by Scotsmen running amok, presumably they behaved themselves.
The Great Chronicle of London
Mary Ann Hookham, The Life and Times of Margaret of Anjou
J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens
Helen Maurer, Margaret of Anjou
George Smith, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville